The Location of the Mauck’s Ferry Road, A Case of Revenge

The Mauck’s Ferry Road, now called Mauxferry Road, was a state road that connected Indianapolis to Mauckport on the Ohio River in Harrison County. It left the Madison State Road in downtown Franklin, heading more or less due south to the town on the river. But its location, while a relative straight line, was due to a surveyor that felt slighted by the state of Indiana, and the naming of a town in Bartholomew County.

The town in Bartholomew County is now Columbus. Originally it was called “Tiptona,” after General John Tipton. General John Tipton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee. He would serve in the War of 1812, becoming a Brigadier General with the United States Army. With the formation of Bartholomew County in February 1821, the county seat was to be located in the town of Tiptona, a town which he had founded. That name lasted around a month…when the county commissioners, at a meeting in March 1821, changed the name to Columbus.

To say the General did not take this well is an understatement. Tipton had originally planned to move his home from Harrison County to the new Bartholomew County. With the change of the county seat’s name, he changed his mind. In 1823, General Tipton was chosen to survey the new “state road” from the soon to be capital city of Indianapolis to Mauckport. Indianapolis had been chosen as the capital of the state in 1820, and the town was platted in 1821.

In those days, much like in later times, a town’s location on a state road was held in high regard. Every town wanted to be on one. And Columbus, being a county seat, would automatically have to be. That was the major purpose of the state roads at the time…much like they are today.

General Tipton had other ideas. The original Mauck’s Ferry Road, when surveyed, covered the same territory that State Road 135 does today south of, and leading into, Brownstown. From Brownstown, the surveyor could have taken the road to Seymour (now US 50), which, by extension, would have also included the road leading from Seymour to Columbus (now SR 11).

That route would have cut the cost and time of surveying the Mauck’s Ferry Road quite a bit. But General Tipton decided to go cross country, and surveyed his new road to be two miles west of the new Bartholomew County Seat town. It would part of the first road to Indianapolis, with the portion from downtown Franklin to Indianapolis later to be known as the Madison State Road (now, mostly, US 31 – and Madison Avenue in Indianapolis and Greenwood). The Madison Road left Franklin to the southeast, following what is now State Street and Old US 31. The Mauck’s Ferry Road leaving Franklin along South Main Street.

Tipton’s career after the survey of the Mauck’s Ferry Road has its good and bad points. He served as a United States Senator from Indiana when he was tasked with replacing James Noble after the latter died in 1831. In November 1832, he was elected in his own right to serve as a senator. His time in the Senate led him to be chairman of two committees: Roads and Canals, and Native American Affairs. The latter put him in charge of the forced removal of the Potawatomi from their lands in northern Indiana near Plymouth to reservation lands in Kansas. This led to the “Trail Of Death,” where more than 40 natives, mostly children, died on the journey.

After serving his term as Senator, Tipton moved to Logansport to live out the rest of his life. He didn’t run for re-election in 1838 due to poor health. He left the Senate in March 1839, and died in Logansport a month later.

Columbus, very quickly after its becoming the county seat, removed any reference to Tipton inside the town. Logansport and Huntington both have streets to honor General John Tipton. In 1844, the new town of Tipton, as well as the county of the same name, were created, also in his honor. In a bit of irony, the county and town were created out of land that, up to that point, still belonged to the Miami Nation of native Americans.

Today, the Mauxferry Road has been decimated by the creation of Camp Atterbury in Johnson and Bartholomew Counties. As mentioned above, it still exists, more or less, from Brownstown to Mauckport. From Brownstown north, there are still some sections of the original road that exist. One part also is now part of SR 58. Columbus went on to have its share of the early state roads – being on the roads that led to Indianapolis, Madison, Jeffersonville, Bloomington, and Greensburg.